20 FEBRUARY 1886, Page 14


[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Sra,—The letter of "An Irish Land Agent" in your issue of February 13th, shows how completely he has failed in grappling with all the issues raised in settling this troublesome question. Like many of his class, he has eyes but cannot see, because be has not apprehended, much less sympathised with, the actual con- dition, the hopes and fears, of Irish peasant-life. The Irish farmer will not buy out his farm under the recent Act, although it is his advantage to do so ; and your correspondent at once concludes, theorising from his inner consciousness, that it is because he expects better terms by-and-by. Allow me, as the son of a poor tenant-farmer from the prosperous North, to give an illustration which will serve to show that small farmers at least should hesitate before applying for the purchase of their farms, without being suspected of any predatory instincts.

My uncle rents a holding of six acres, at a rental of 21 per acre, about fourteen miles from Belfast, under an indulgent landlord, who allows him two or even three years' time to pay his rent. By growing his own potatoes and the help of a cow, he is able, with the occasional assistance of hand-loom weaving, to keep his young family in bread. The house is barely covered with thatch to keep the rain out, and the usual earthen, uneven floor, with the smallest amount of fire, render the building barely habitable in the winter months. The land is not culti- vated as it ought to be, because there is no money to drain or manure it. Last year his one acre of oats produced about seven hundredweight, which, sold at the neighbouring town of Lisburn, realised 22, a sum barely sufficient to pay seed and labour. Now, the market price of such a holding would be £120, which at 4 per cent., together with the taxes now paid by the landlord, would bring the sum up to the present rental. Now, supposing the Government, represented by some domi- neering official with all the machinery ready for official eject- ment, was the landlord, what prospect would my uncle have of keeping his holding when the odds were so tremendously against him Your correspondent most remember that, according to recent statistics, there are 227,000 farmers holding under fifteen acres of land ; that the majority of these farmers are in debt to the shopkeeper, as well as to the landlord ; and further, that the Act has been only a few months in operation in those parts where the landlords are willing to sell ; and therefore, to hazard a conclusion of probable plunder is an unwarrantable assump- tion, betraying the animus of the writer, and revealing his utter incompetency to treat this burning question in an equitable and satisfactory manner. I have already trespassed too long on your limited space, but I trust at some future time to give a few details as to the way land agents perform their duties in Ireland, or rather the way in which they neglect their duties, and which has made them so odious, and detested by every poor farmer in Ireland.—I am, Sir, &c., H. T.